Protestors. Pot. A Peacock Killer. Can detective Jake Bass stop the Key's descent into mayhem?
Charlie Goins was on the phone, whispering.
“Jake, we got big trouble. It’s worse than that murder in the Village.”
I rolled my eyes. I was sitting by the pool at my Longboat Key condo complex, sipping a beer and enjoying the early April sun.
My name is Jake Bass, and I’m the detective in the major crimes division of the Longboat Key Police Department. I’m only paid a dollar a year, but because a major crime on Longboat Key usually means a car burglary, I’m not really that underpaid.
Besides, given that I have arrest powers and can put away bartenders who drive drunk, I usually get lots of free beer at the island watering holes.
I retired from the Orlando Police Department a couple of years earlier and moved to Longboat. Soon after I got settled, Longboat’s police chief, Billy Gallagher, called and asked me to join his department at a nominal salary. I didn’t realize how nominal when I signed on.
Charlie Goins is one of those conspiracy nuts who had once been a real estate salesman.
But as his paranoia grew, he began to scare off potential condobuyers with his talk of a cabal of Bradenton Beach people who assisted terrorists in sneaking onto Longboat Key. He seemed to be particularly concerned about Canadians and was proposing a wall along the northern shore of the Key
He was charged with being a backsliding apostate and kicked out of the real estate fraternity. He tried to practice law for a few months but found his sunny disposition made him suspect among his brothers at the bar. When the authorities discovered he’d never been to law school, he had to close down his operation. Three of his clients had been wrongfully convicted of crimes because Charlie didn’t know what he was doing, or for that matter, even where the courthouse was.
A few days before, in response to Charlie’s call to 911, I’d been sent to investigate a murder in the Longbeach Village on the north end of the Key. It had all the earmarks of an international incident because it involved a man from Canada and a peacock who had lived his entire life in the Village.
Charlie suspected that the Canadian had slipped undetected across the bridge from Bradenton Beach, intent on creating a terrorist incident.
I arrived at the scene of the murder and found the Canadian holding a 9 mm pistol and standing over the dead peacock. A crowd of villagers had gathered and, as they are wont to do anytime two or more of them get together, they were becoming unruly. The man with the gun had obviously been standing there for some time, because he was getting sunburned.
“Did you kill the peacock?” I asked.
“Yeah. About an hour ago.”
“And you’re still here? Why?”
“I watch a lot of TV. Not much else to do in Canada. I never miss 'CSI.' I know better than to disturb a crime scene. If I left, I might have impeded your investigation.”
“Good thinking,” I said. “You’re under arrest.”
“I plead stand your ground.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at my shoe.”
The man was wearing a shiny pair of loafers that appeared to be fine Italian leather, or vinyl, or something like that. There was a large multicolored splotch on the top of his right shoe.
“Peacock have a little accident?” I asked.
“Wasn’t an accident. He did it on purpose. I felt threatened so I shot him. You know, stand your ground.”
He had a point, so I didn't charge him. The killing went on the books as an incident, not a crime and our murder rate stayed zero. I suggested to the Canadian that he vacate the island forthwith. The last I saw of him, he was pedaling his bicycle across the bridge toward Bradenton Beach.
Now, Charlie was interrupting again. “Why are you whispering?” I asked.
“I don’t want them to hear me.”
“Don’t want who to hear you?”
“The Occupy GMD people.”
“They’re harmless, Charlie. More a nuisance than anything.”
“Not anymore. They've set up at the crosswalk up there by the Centre Shoppes.”
“Man, they got tents and beer and bongs, a couple of bonfires, and they’re all barefoot. Lots of dirty feet.”
“What are they doing?”
“Singing. That Canadian peacock killer is leading them. They’re pretty bad.”
“Do you know what they want?”
“They say they just want red lights at the crosswalks.”
“They don’t like the white lights?”
“No. They’re saying nobody stops for them. I think they got a point, Jake.”
“Think about it. We lose a pedestrian or two a week in those crosswalks.”
“Yeah, but the death rate is going to go down once the snowbirds go home.”
“Right, but those Michiganders think if they drive slow enough, they don't have to watch out for pedestrians and they end up hitting a lot of them. The New Yorkers aim at them. And we had two people die of heart attacks a couple of weeks back when some New Jerseyites yelled at them to get outta the street.”
“The state Department of Transportation is working on that,” I said. “Doing a study to find out how many people use the things. They got people sitting around out there counting pedestrians.”
“That count is going to be low. Nobody with half a brain uses the crosswalks.”
“Charlie, you do know that the Town Commission is working on the crosswalk problem.”
“No, I haven’t heard that. What’s the plan?”
“They’re planning another crosswalk at the north end,” I said.
“The closer it is to Bradenton Beach, the more illegal Canadians we’re going to have slipping over the bridge for the New Yorkers to take out.”
“Won’t matter. Nobody cares about the Canadians.”
“You know that everybody on the Town Commission is a snowbird, right Jake? And I’m pretty sure at least one of them actually lives in Bradenton Beach and might even be a Canadian. They don't understand our ways.”
There was quiet on the phone. Then, “Gotta go, Jake. I think I’m being offered a hit off that bong. I’ll get back to you.”
Longboat Key resident H. TerrellGriffin is the award winning author of the national bestselling Matt Royal mystery series.